Guwahati: Healthcare authorities in Assam Wednesday warned of an epidemic if parents do not get their children immunized against the fatal Japanese encephalitis, which claimed 119 lives in the state last year.
"Children are vulnerable to the disease and unless parents get their wards immunized against Japanese encephalitis, the situation could be frightening,"Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told IANS.
A massive vaccination program launched by the state over the weekend has been affected with media reports about children falling sick after the immunization drive in the eastern districts of Jorhat and Golaghat.
"These are absolutely false propaganda and such baseless news stories would do more harm than good. The stories have already led to panic with parents not willing to vaccinate their children," the minister said.
The disease, transmitted from pigs through mosquitoes, strikes during the peak breeding period from April to September.
Japanese encephalitis is a potentially severe viral disease spread by infected mosquitoes in the agricultural regions of Asia and affects the central nervous system and can cause severe complications and even death.
The Japanese encephalitis virus has a complex life cycle involving domestic pigs and a specific type of culex mosquito that lives in rural rice-growing and pig-farming regions.
Japanese encephalitis usually starts with flu-like symptoms, with fever, chills, tiredness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
"We have targeted to vaccinate 700,000 children in the districts and so far we have been able to immunize just about 200,000," Sarma said.
There is no medication for curing Japanese encephalitis other than the vaccination developed by China.
"A total of 16 districts in India were provided with the very costly vaccination from China made available by the central government. Two of the 16 districts are in Assam," the minister said.
There are six districts in Assam vulnerable to Japanese encephalitis - all in eastern Assam.